Serves Me Right to Suffer
Every song I sing is something that happened to my life or somebody else’s life in this world… I watch them. Then I feel their mood with them. I move with them. I get up and get to rockin’ and after I get them going-higher and higher, I just don’t let them down. I can always knock them dead with “The Boogie.” You got to survive.
-John Lee Hooker
Been thinking bullheads these days & wishing you was here ugly as sin to look at all whiskery jawed flabby yellow gutted and blackeyed course I’m meaning them fish though I don’t know much why I’m all this time thinking on them or what it’s all for hell I ain’t been fishing up to the dam in years not since they turned the water and it ain’t catching them I been thinking on anyhow because I always did enjoy the catching part but the way you got to lay them cross a 2″ by 4″ you know and plant a eight-penny nail right straight through each forehead and how they scream their mouths wide open with no sound but tails beating down like some boogie drum man like them blues you play and all that before you hammer it to them even which sure enough gets the job done but what I been thinking is how all this comes down and how you just do it just make it happen and how it’s okay because it’s what you what we all one way or another been taught is right and because we all got it in us to do it what with having been raised the way we been what with having to eat and still I can’t help but wonder how it must feel to be yanked up like that like a fish what’s got hooked and then I think how always ever anytime I was the one doing the yanking I couldn’t help but feel like it was me man like I was the fish caught like something had got hold of me and wouldn’t no matter what let go no matter what and I’d be screaming but wouldn’t nothing be coming out and wouldn’t nobody be paying me no mind. Inner Lids
Imagine each of us our own language, diction and rhythms, singular turns of phrase.
Next, the dog her eyes upturned black flesh of inner lids, will rise from the couch
place a paw on my shoulder the other on yours and in quiet tones not hushed but nearly so will explain finally the unholy machinations of this universe how the world formed what love is why every endeavor, ever.
David Ray Vance Unearthing
Both boxes could fit in your hand at the same time tiny-but I imagine-heavy snakes curving in eights or lifting a cobra head In a glass case, the Kohl sticks turn turquoise with age as are the miniature patoikos figures, green and bald
I walk, surrounded by glass cases absorbing yellow light my heels make clicks that echo A couple in a far corner are whispering disembodied feet emerge from a statue base broken at the ankles in mid-step something you meant once like migraine flashes-
Before my eyes, a large alabaster bowl milky-white salt-glazed earthenware, vitrified or the ebony hand severed at the wrist: “kneeling priest holding offering pail- Hathor-headed finial”
Elevator doors in the corridor hum open a woman with musk perfume walks quickly through the gallery Too quickly I was severed from my last history and am being severed still, upturned stonework scoured by a bedeviled archeologist A set of golden finger stalls, Nubian, Meroitic Period: 270 B.C.-A.D. 350
worn on the finger tips of corpses in royal burials to protect the nails; similar stalls were also placed over the toes They’re slightly crushed, indented with the fingerprints of the hands that removed them I thought I had lost you-
By four, you need to pack up your briefcase This time, your car starts the first time You will not return to that same office You will find it in discarded pieces: in a book, a computer manual, a letter, in a fortune cookie, in red ink on a dry cleaning receipt This lost debris, scattered reliquary In the subway, while purchasing tokens Taking the elevator up to the thirty-third floor In your yard, cutting the rosemary back In the morning, the alarm goes off
On the dock, he loads the crates She holds your wrist for a pulse The child sings to herself in the stroller The bakery is warm in the bag that you carry
She never found time to put the photographs in an album He pours water over tea leaves as he swirls the cup It was the day that they fired you In the ambulance, she held your hand
You stretch on your bed and close your eyes When they ask, he gives them the directions If the sun comes through the window blinds You can hear the children laughing in the street
Catherine Kasper is a poet and fiction writer whose work has been published in numerous journals such as American Letters & Commentary, Quarter After Eight, Notre Dame Review, Private Arts and Women’s Studies. She is an Assistant Professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio.
David Ray Vance has published poems in such journals as Sniper Logic, The Denver Quarterly and Private Arts. He has poems forthcoming in The Chicago Review and a chapbook titled Radium Jaw is scheduled to be published later this year by Transparent Tiger Press (Denver). He presently teaches creative writing and composition at the University of Texas at San Antonio.
–Naomi Shihab Nye